The Engineering That Made The Big 8 CKLW GREAT!

By Greg Ogonowski, President, Modulation Index, LLC

The audio processing put in by Ed Buterbaugh in the early 70’s consisted of 2 graphic equalizers, 2 UREI LA-3A Leveling Amplifiers, a Gates Peak Limiter, and a custom Peak Clipper built by Ed.
There are no known photos of this.
This may be the first use of 2-band audio processing in broadcast. Altec had a 2-band compressor earlier 9473G, but no use in broadcast that I am aware of. Contrary to popular belief, it was not Mike Dorrough, although Mike did get multiband commercially into broadcast from the trunk of his car, albeit a poor implementation.
The 2 graphic equalizers were used as primitive crossovers for the 2 UREI LA-3A Leveling Amplifiers.
This all went in about the time that the Gates/Harris MW-50 Transmitter went in to allow the aggressive audio processing to work. This combination allowed CKLW to “blow a hole in the dial!” And that it did, and everyone took notice!
This was all replaced with a Gregg Laboratories 2540 AM Stereo Audio Processing System when CKLW went AM Stereo. It was Serial Number 1008, which is really 8. Wonder how that happened?
The Gregg Laboratories Audio Processing System was used for all the CRTC AM Stereo tests and evaluations, and is documented.
The CKLW Gregg Laboratories Audio Processing System has gone MIA several years ago, when they were late to the game to request an NRSC Update. By the time they requested, the NRSC Updates were no longer available, and presumably, someone now has a very valuable collector’s item, especially being from CKLW.

A bit more that is important…

A radio station or stream is only as good as its weakest link.
Ed joined CKLW in the early 70s right about the time the Riverside studios were being relocated to Ouellette, which was a palace!
Growing up in the Detroit Area, I had the advantage of hearing CKLW through the 60s and 70s, its prime period. It influenced me immensely in producing audio processing systems, and to this very day is what has shaped and molded broadcast audio quality today in Orban Optimod Audio Processors, as that is where all the Gregg Laboratories tech ended up.
Even in the 60s, CKLW had a superior sound, due to the fact they always had the best broadcast equipment available at the time.
In the 60s, the studio was early McCurdy Consoles, good turntables and pre-amps, and simply an Audimax, equalized telco line to transmitter, Volumax, and a good RCA BTA-50F1.

These were considered the best transmitters of the day, as they had a huge modulation transformer responsible for that nice bass that CKLW was known for, even going back to the 60s!
WABC by comparison, had a GE 50kW AM Transmitter with a very small modulation transformer, and hence the sound was always thin, not to mention the horrific reverb. But content was king there, certainly not audio quality.

Ed continued with the best of the best. “Good enough, was never good enough” for Ed, something he and I share in common.
The new facility was all new McCurdy again providing the best source audio possible. This is where the audio quality all starts. And if it isn’t good here, there is no magic audio processing or transmitter or streaming encoder to fix it. Of course when all the parts of this puzzle are right, you end up with award winning sound.
Ed and I based our careers on this.

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